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Budget delivers to children - Caritas Aotearoa

28 May 2004

Budget delivers to children

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic social justice agency of the New Zealand Bishops Conference, says the government’s 2004 Budget has responded to the concerns many Catholics have expressed about child poverty and support for families.

“This is a very significant step forward for social justice for struggling families,” said Caritas spokesperson Lisa Beech. “We are pleased to see the poverty of many children of working families addressed in this Budget.”

Caritas wrote to all Members of Parliament in September last year urging the government to make support for low income families the priority for this year’s budget. “The extension of support to middle income families exceeded our expectations and is warmly welcomed.”

Lisa Beech said children and their families have been among New Zealand’s poorest citizens. “The measure of our worth as a society is how we treat our most vulnerable members.”

Caritas noted that the generosity of the Budget is limited by the fact that there have been no changes to family incomes for most of the past decade. “If family support had kept place with inflation, it would now be worth $74 per week for the eldest child. The 2005 changes to family support will raise assistance for the eldest child up to $72,” said Lisa Beech. “This is not a revolutionary social welfare budget.”

While the cash benefits for families are immediate and obvious, Caritas also strongly supports the linking of this assistance and of threshold levels with the CPI index. “Child poverty must remain a top priority for government, not just in the run up to an election. It is important that gains are not eroded by inflation as has been the case with other assistance to children.”

Caritas has some concerns that the distinction between support for those who are working and those who are not will entrench the inequality and disparities between the poorest children in New Zealand and those who are relatively better off. “It will not benefit children living with grandparents on superannuation or parents on benefits due to illness or disability if the focus is on getting caregivers back to work.”

Other aspects of the Budget welcomed by Caritas included:
- The immigration resettlement package for refugees and migrants, including an increase in funding for RMS
- A continuation of funding to implement the Mental Health Blueprint
- Free early childhood education for 3 and 4 year olds

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